By Capt Ted Zobel
Program Manager for Surface Combatant Modernization
Operating as integral players in global maritime security while engaging in air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense (BMD), the Navy’s Arleigh Burke class DDG 51 destroyers are the workhorses of the Fleet. With 62 destroyers currently in service and an expected service life of 35 years or greater, the sustained maintenance and modernization of these ships is crucial to their continued role as an essential component of surface warfare.
To date, the Navy has modernized 11 destroyers with hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) upgrades and one with combat systems upgrades. USS Russell (DDG 59) successfully completed its HM&E mid-life upgrade and subsequent sea trials in October 2014. By the end of the year, two additional ships, USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Benfold (DDG 65) will complete combat system modernization availabilities.
These efforts are part of Naval Sea Systems Command’s Surface Warfare Directorate (NAVSEA 21) and is a comprehensive lifecycle modernization program for the Navy’s DDG 51 destroyers. The modernization program enhances Fleet capability and ensures Navy’s surface combatant mission-relevance by pacing the evolving threat.. The destroyer modernization program is fully mature, executing on cost and schedule with two ships projected to complete availabilities in 2015.
The highly successful DDG 51 modernization program began in 2006 by identifying the most resourceful and effective ways to upgrade Navy destroyers. The program proceeded with upgrades to Flight I and II destroyers (DDGs 51-78) in 2010 with upgrades to USS Arleigh Burke’s (DDG 51) HM&E system. This set of critical upgrades incorporated technology improvements to reduce workload and total ship ownership costs and included a fully integrated bridge, improved machinery and damage control systems, wireless communications and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing equipment. Since 2010, eleven DDG 51s have received HM&E upgrades and redeployed to the Fleet.
In addition to HM&E systems upgrades, ships receive combat systems enhancements including improvements to BMD capability, the gun system, and anti-submarine warfare systems.Arleigh Burke destroyers are equipped with Navy’s Aegis system, the world’s foremost integrated naval combat management system. Upgrades to DDG 51 combat systems began in 2012 with USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) becoming the first destroyer to receive these very important upgrades. The upgraded combat system network of both on-board and off-board sensors provides ground-breaking defense capability against cruise missiles and other modern threats.Following John Paul Jones, two more DDGs will complete combat systems upgrades by the end of 2014.
Beginning in 2014, the Navy evolved its modernization strategy to provide additional air defense capabilities to the Fleet by increasing the rate of combat systems modernization of DDG Flight IIAs (DDG 79 and later) to align with the date in which these ships were commissioned. This approach will maximize the Navy’s return on investment (ROI) by modernizing Flight IIA ships at their midlife, increasing overall ship operational availability by combining separate combat systems and HM&E modernization periods into one. Modernization availabilities forFlights I and II will continue as planned, and modernization of Flight IIA destroyers will commence in 2017.
The Flight IIA modernization strategy increases the Navy’s BMD capabilities, and in turn the surface Fleet’s capability by incorporating BMD upgrades across all flights of DDG 51s. Modernized Flight I and II destroyers retain their very stable and operationally-proven Aegis baseline 5.3.9 computer program and receive the upgraded BMD 4.1 system. Newer destroyers, Flight IIA and beyond, will receive the upgraded Aegis weapon system baseline 9 which includes the BMD 5.0 system and the Multi-Mission Signal Processor which together enable simultaneous processing of Anti-Air Warfare and BMD threats. Not only does the transition to baseline 9 provide significant air defense capabilities to our warfighters, it also simplifies and builds concurrency with the new construction DDG 51 efforts, effectively saving money on both procurement and training costs.
In addition to enhanced BMD capabilities, the modernization strategy includes equipping all destroyers with the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). The integration of CEC into the DDG 51 enables a wide ranging set of ships and aircraft to link onboard sensors to build a composite operational picture of the entire battle space. To address the underwater warfighting requirement, Navy is installing the SQQ-89A(V)15 Anti-Submarine Undersea Warfare System with Multi-Function Towed Array (MFTA) that includes superior capabilities in underwater fire control, on-board training, a highly-evolved display subsystem and integration with the Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopter. These improvements effectively and dramatically increase the battle space and provide the Navy with an unparalleled 21st century fighting edge at sea.
The modernization program office plans the modernization availabilities well in advance of arriving at the shipyard so that complex technical modernization efforts are balanced, aligned and ready for installation. This type of preparation improves efficiency and increases the probability that the ship will complete its availability on time and in budget, fully ready to resume its operational commitments.
These major shipboard system upgrades on DDG 51 class ships improve the combat power of the surface Fleet and its ability to execute a wide spectrum of missions. By incorporating smarter technologies, the Navy ensures destroyers are not only more capable but are combat relevant for years to come.
The destroyer modernization program is evidence of the central role NAVSEA 21 performs in the rapid development and delivery of key capabilities required to pace the threat for the life of the ship. NAVSEA 21 continues to manage and execute critical proven programs enabling the Navy to stay mission-relevant and meet combatant commander requirements in an increasingly complex and challenging budget environment. Through the implementation of modernization programs, the Navy ensures its ships are primed and ready for tasking in the most sustainable, cost efficient manner.